February 25, 2015

3 Stages of Product Packaging & Businesses

The last time we spoke about business, I went over what you need to do and to have in order to sell your product to retail.  If we back up a step, I thought we could talk about how to package a product when you want to sell it to the market. This will combine my MBA education on entrepreneurship and my own experiences. I feel like so many of us are trying to sell something- maybe it's not a wood stain that you're selling to businesses all over the US, but then, maybe it is. Or maybe it's an Etsy biz that sells all over the world, right?

OK, so now that we've established that my readers are some seriously amazing #fementrepreneurs, let's get back to packaging. When I look back at my packaging journey, if I could say that melodramatically,  "My Packaging Journey" I would say it's very similar to selling a product in general.

There're three stages:

Test Phase

In the test phase of business and packaging, all you're doing is putting a product out into the universe to see of there's  buyer for it. You're basically testing the value of your concept by asking the market to pay for it. In this case, you don't worry about buying the cheapest bulk packaging or for paying for a graphic designer. This will go against your very nature, especially you women. I know what I'm talking about here. We want things to be beautiful and we buy what is pretty to our eyes, so when you spend all this time creating an actual product you want it to be dressed in it's finest plastic container. Am I right?

Every product is different, so I will use my own for an example. This is the stage where you buy a handful of containers from Amazon, print a label off your home ink jet printer and then interview people to see whether they'll buy and how much they will pay. If a couple of people actually buy it, even better! This is an awesome and awful stage to be in. I was humiliated at my first product packaging [above], I thought that people wouldn't wanted a weathering wood stain, because the packaging looked ghetto. Wrong! So very wrong!

People know what they want. If you talk to 100 people and greater than 10 would buy your product at a price point that you could build a business off of, then you're onto something. It's OK to move onto phase 2.

Minimum Viable

Business teaches us NOT to invest in your product design UNTIL you talk with your target market! (Remember? We talked about how to determine who your target market is last time.) Interview them- use your discussions to find out they value and what they'll pay. Now you will try to design your packaging to house your product, to fit its needs- not your wants. In business terms this phase is the minimum viable stage, this means spending the least amount possible, that will get you paid.

Now that you're ready to put a little money into packaging, you need a  packaging supplier. In all decent sized-cities there are packaging supply stores called something like Industrial Container Stores or Packaging, Bottle, or Container Suppliers. There you can buy packaging that should fit your needs for most businesses. They sell bottles, containers, jars, pails, etc. You're trying to buy something locally so you don't have to pay shipping and so you won't have availability problems.

As for your labels. If you can help it, you should try to design labels yourself or you can pay a friend. There's also design services online where you post a job and a rate and graphic designers will bid on that job. This is key- are you listening...I mean reading? When you putting together the information for your labels, use what you've learned from the market interviews. I knew what terminology should be used, what phrases were key, and how to explain the product's use from talking to my customers!

During the minimum viable stage of business, you're looking to prove that your initial market assumptions were correct. Meaning, that people will buy your product and that you know who those people are. The more you sell, the more you learn these things, the closer you get to stage 3.


Hallelujah! State 3! In stage 3 you're probably ordering your packaging from a distributor or manufacturer. Here's how to find them: you can google it, ask around, or, if think of your ideal packaging if you had unlimited funding, then trace back who makes that packaging, you'll find one or more manufacturers. Reach out to the manufacturers and ask for the distributors in your area. Now ask them what the order minimums are.

There's three ways that you know you're finally approaching legitimacy, stage 3.
[1] The good way, Growth- You've called around and you know what your order minimums are for your dream packaging. Over time, you've steadily grown until you've reached your goals. Naturally growing into a bigger company.
[2] Cash- you've got a surplus of cash and you can finally afford to invest in the right stuff. At some point the business stops consuming everything and you can look at lesser important things, like appearance. Pat yourself on the back, because this is a fine moment, indeed.
[3] The bad way- Negative Consequences. It's costing you too much not to have the right packaging. For example, you just cannot jimmy-rig off-the-shelf packaging any longer because its costing you large sales that you're not getting. In this case it's time to make other financial cut backs so you can spend money, to make money.
No matter the cause, at some point it makes financial sense to move forward to the final stage.

Stage 3 is seriously satisfying, too. Honestly! I felt like Braveheart when he screamed, "freedom!" Except I wasn't fighting any British, but instead leaky packaging was my foe! We had to go all the way to LA to get the right packaging, but once I got it- I was thrilled. My baby is all grown up, and don't they look pretty!?

In order to have a successful business, you must restrain yourself and go through these stages. Jumping to stage 3, buying the best packaging that can only be custom ordered or having it custom made, paying for designers- that's can and probably will sink a small business. Leave that for the businesses who get investors right off that bat and trust fund babies By growing in stages, you will be in a series of constant process and packaging improvement. You can continue to tweak until you know you've got things right where your customer needs it.

Good luck on your growing businesses. I hope I made sense and that my two years of MBA school can help your businesses, too! As always, we have a Weatherwood blogger discount for all my friends and blogging readers. Stop by and plan your Weatherwood project today.

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